Houston Community College teacher accused of referring to trans students as ‘freaks,’ ‘weirdos’

Donny Leveston, an English teacher at Houston Community College, is under fire for allegedly referring to transgender people as “freaks” and “weirdos.” The comments were made during an in-class student discussion of a paper written by the instructor entitled “Taboo: Incest and Homoeroticism.” According to a transgender student in the class, Leveston closed the discussion by saying, “I don’t care what those people do, as long as they keep it away from me.”

The student emailed Leveston and explained that his comments made her feel unwelcome in his class. Leveston responded that “everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion” and that the student should respect his right to feel uncomfortable with transgender people  “Everyone has the right to his or her own preference,” wrote Leveston, “just do not go trying to push your views on me. Case closed.”

Leveston didn’t  return calls seeking comment for this story.

Daniel Arguijo, chief communications officer for HCC, said the college is aware of the situation, and has reached out to both the student and Leveston to begin the process of addressing the allegations.

Lesa Spivey, director of public relations and media at HCC, said the school values diversity.

“We want all of our students and staff to feel comfortable in class,” she said.

HCC’s non-discrimination policy includes sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression, but Spivey maintained that the inclusion of “sex” and “gender” in the policy covers the trans community.

“I can tell you for a fact that our policy includes transgender people,” Spivey said. “When we say sex and gender, for us, that’s all-inclusive.”

—  admin

Classmate arrested in hate-crime attack on transgender Houston Community College student Lance Reyna

Lance Reyna

One of Lance Reyna’s classmates has been arrested in the transgender student-activist’s hate-crime beating inside a Houston Community College restroom last week, The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday evening.

Terrance Calhoun, 22, was arrested on campus Wednesday and charged with aggravated robbery in the attack on 29-year-old Lance Reyna.

Reyna was washing his hands when his attacker emerged from a stall and put a knife to his throat saying, “Hey queer, I need you to be quiet, cooperate, and give me all your valuables.” Reyna, who is both transgender and gay, was knocked to the floor and beaten and kicked. His wallet and credit cards were taken.

Reyna told The Chroncile he’s slightly relieved about the arrest but still feels he was targeted and won’t be satisfied until Calhoun is convicted of a hate crime. Unfortunately, prosecutors say it’s unlikely they’ll pursue a hate-crime charge. Again, that’s because Texas law provides no enhanced penalty for hate crimes if the offense is already a first-degree felony, such as aggravated robbery.

While aggravated robbery is punishable by life in prison, it is difficult for law enforcement to send a message — or for the statute to act as a deterrent — if cases aren’t formally prosecuted as hate crimes. Furthermore, Texas’ hate crimes law doesn’t protect transgender people, so if the case were prosecuted as a hate crime, defense attorneys could try to argue that the statute doesn’t apply, even though Reyna is also gay.

From The Chronicle:

The victim, who has been active in transgender and other gay and lesbian organizations, said he still suffers pain from his injuries. “I don’t feel safe on campus,” he said. “Just looking at the building triggers my memories. I deal with night terrors every day.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Houston hate crime victim speaks out

Last week we told you about Lance Reyna, a transgender man who was beaten and robbed at knifepoint on the campus of Houston Community College a few days before the city’s Pride celebration. ABC 13 caught up with Reyna during Pride, and he’s speaking out about the incident:

“He was like, ‘Hey queer, I need you to be quiet, cooperate, and give me all your valuables,’” Reyna said.

But Reyna put up a fight.

“He punched me here and elbowed me in the same spot and by that time I’m falling to the floor,” said Reyna. “He just kept punching me and kicked me and took my wallet and ran off.”

Reyna chased after him but he got away. The attack left the student with a concussion. But that’s not what hurts him the most.

“With it being pride week this week, it makes me feel like I’m a target,” he said.

Reyna is still shaken but instead of letting fear force him into silence, he is facing adversity head on and speaking out.

“I shouldn’t have to be ashamed to walk down the street because I present myself in a different way,” Reyna said. “I feel the person I am on the inside shouldn’t be affected by how I look on the outside.”

—  John Wright